Steering problem, not wind, caused crash – Alonso

2015 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso says he suspects a problem on his McLaren’s steering caused his crash during testing, rather than a gust of wind.

However Alonso conceded the team had been unable to find data to support that view from the car, which is why they have added more measurement equipment to it this weekend.

Alonso, who will drive the car for the first time since the crash tomorrow, says he does remember the crash at the Circuit de Catalunya on February 22nd.

“I remember the accident and I remember everything that following day,” he said in a press conference in Malaysia. “Obviously with the team we’ve been very close working on that and with the FIA, they were very helpful and we were in close contact all three parties constantly.”

“There is not in the data anything clear that we can spot and we can say ‘it was that, the reason’. But definitely we have a steering problem in the middle of turn three that lock into the right.

“I approached the wall, I brake in the last moment, I downshift from fifth to third and unfortunately on the data we’re still missing some parts. Probably the acquisition data on that particular area of the car is not at the top so there are some new sensors here in this race and there are some changes that we do on the steering rack and on other parts.

“That was the main things so the last week at the factory was more the work on the simulator trying to explain to me all these new sensors and all these new parts we’ve going to this race.”

Alonso said he “remembers everything” about the accident and described the moments leading up to it. “I think [Sebastian] Vettel was in front of me before turn three, he cut the chicane to let me go, basically, in the pit lane”.

“After the hit I was kissing the wall for a while, then I switch off the radio first because it was on. And then I switch off the master switch, that we call just for the batteries, to switch off the ERS system because I saw the marshals coming and if not they cannot touch the car. So I was perfectly conscious at that time”.

Special steering set-up changed

Despite the uncertainty over the precise cause of the crash, Alonso said he is not worried about getting back behind the wheel. “As I said before together with the FIA and the team we were constantly doing some checks, investigations on some possibilities and as I said there are some areas in the car that instrumentation-wise probably are not at the level to solve this problem.”

“It’s like a problem that may occur in this race 20 years ago Formula One didn’t have the technology to spot the problem, I am sure we are missing something on the data acquisition that we will spot in ten years times when the technology is available. So that’s one reason and I have zero doubt, zero concerns.”

As a result of the accident the team will reverse some changes which were made to the steering on Alonso’s car to accommodate his driving style, which the team’s other drivers haven’t used. “Some parts on the car that were unique for me that I request because of my driving style when I join McLaren,” he said. “Here we will go back to the normal steering rack and things they’ve been using with Jenson [Button] and Kevin [Magnussen] for the last couple of years.”

However Alonso denied the team’s original explanation that a gust of wind had contributed to the accident. “If you see the video even a hurricane will not move the car at that speed,” he said.

He also refuted the suggestion that he had experienced a medical problem or black-out, causing him to lose control. “If you have any problem or any medical issue normally you will lose the power and you will go straight to the outside, never to the inside. In a Formula One car you still need to apply some effort on the steering wheel, so that’s one thing.”

He said the suggestion that the wind had played a role in the accident was due to the team wishing to satisfy the demand for information about the crash immediately after it happened. “You cannot say nothing for three or fours days until I remember everything because these three or four days will become even worse. So I think they say the theory of the wind, et cetera, but obviously it was not a help.”

“I didn’t wake up in ’95”

Alonso dismissed media reports claiming he had believed the year was 1995 when he regained consciousness:

“There is a time that I don’t remember in the hospital from two o’clock to six o’clock or something like that but everything again was normal due to the medication they give you to go into the helicopter and there is some tests in the hospital. Everything as I said was normal, I didn’t wake up in ’95, I didn’t wake up speaking in Italian, I didn’t wake up in all these things that probably were out there.”

As over a month has now passed since the accident, Alonso is pessimistic any further information will surface which could shed light onto it. “It’s one of the things that I did in the factory last week, not only the simulator but go with all the engineers and the data available, go through the moments and there are some spots here and there but there is not a clear answer,” he explained.

“I understand completely and support the team, if they don’t find a clear answers if it was this or that it’s impossible to say – or to lie – that it was this or that, they need to go much further. If they will find something any time I don’t know because if after one month we didn’t find anything on the data it’s because maybe whatever part it was the problem, it was not available in the data, so maybe it will never be.”

“I fully trust the team,” he reiterated when asked if he was concerned about the possibility of suffering a similar failure in future.

“They’ve been one month looking every single component of the car, simulating the air force, doing so many tests. They’ve been changing every single part they had some doubts. So I think we have the safest car right now because with all the studies they did. And after one month probably I am the most checked driver medically of history. So we should be fine, both parts.”

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    Keith Collantine
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    89 comments on “Steering problem, not wind, caused crash – Alonso”

    1. Fernando should spend more time on the internet. If he did, he’d know the crash was caused by a massive electrical shock :-)

      1. @tdog pfff, I know ! and how about not waking up on 1995? at least have the dignity to lie and adapt your story to what the internet says!

        Some people…

        1. and not a single word about Rons 100million reasons for an assasination attempt! This guy is a joke…

        2. Perhaps the car crashed at exactly 88mph.

      2. @tdog Very funny.
        I think this excuse is very interesting as well, very “Sennaesque”. There’s no proof there was a steering problem but they say this was the problem. Perhaps there’s no chance Fernando like Ayrton, lost the control of the car for human reasons. They took their time with this explanation, I’ve first heard of this steering wheel problem no more than 3 days ago.

    2. Let’s be honest, the “wind theory” is pretty foolish… given the wind speed. It’s obviously something related to the car or the driver. If it’s something related to the car, you can bet McLaren won’t recognize it. The last thing they need is to have the car banned from racing by FIA! It’s so much easy to blame the driver… because he can be replaced! What happened to KMag kinda sustains my theory: when he went off track, initially he said it wasn’t his fault, but after some hours… he said it was his fault. Pretty suspicious…

      1. dont start more conspiracies. whatever broke or locked, the damge after hid away the evidence of what happened, that seems to be the jist of what happened. Mclaren have worked with the FIA are are being proactive by putting new sensors on the car, incase something goes wrong again, but every part has been chacked and replaced so it should not go wrong again, they probably have a very similar steering mechanisms to every other team. at the end of the interview, Alonso said his car is probably the most safest now, as they have analysed so much and replace heaps of parts – and they did this under an FIA investigation. he said he is probably the safest driver out their now after so many medical tests!

      2. Let’s be honest, the “wind theory” is pretty foolish… given the wind speed.

        @corrado-dub Not really, The wind was really bad that day & a number of drivers were complaining that it was unsettling the car through turn 3 with Carlos Sainz going off himself due to the wind.

        At the speeds the cars are going through that corner & how heavily reliant they are on aerodynamics, A strong gust of wind can have a massive effect on the car & can indeed cause a car to be destabilized enough to spin.

        Obviously thats not what caused Fernando’s crash, But it can be a problem & can cause drivers to go off.

      3. Your theory with Magnussen is off. He was being interviewed on his walk back to the garage and admitted it was his fault. I’ll admit he seemed very quick to take responsibility though, maybe too quick? ;)

    3. That was pretty honest, in contrast to McLaren prior to this.

    4. Was this during Thursday’s press conference?

      1. @mashiat2 The FIA press conference, yes.

    5. It might be a front wing failure, similar that he had in malaysia in 2013

      1. @proteus That would have been far easier to detect both from the data (They have load sensors both in the wings & from the suspension data) & those who saw the crash, Plus there would have been debris on the track when the wing failed & scrape marks on the ground from the wing dragging.

    6. So, was the steering very hard or very easy. If very hard, then I imagine he couldn’t rotate the car enough and got his wheels of the astroturf on the outside of Turn 3, catapulting his car into the barrier on the inside. But if the steering was light, then maybe the car just veered off straight into the barrier. So I guess Seb was right. It was very odd indeed.

      1. he explained what happened, please read. it was neither what you think. he said he felt his steering locked to the right, then he put the brakes on at last moment when he knew he couldnt turn, he shifted down from 5th gear to 3rd and hit the barrier.

    7. If it’s true McLaren are changing the steering set-up to an older version then that’s a pretty obvious clue as to where they think the problem lay!

      Steering failure is almost on a par with brake failure when it comes to a drivers worst nightmare. No wonder Alonso’s mind tried to block it out.

      1. I think the steering locked.

      2. Or having exhausted every possibility they are just reverting the steering as a precaution.

      3. Was it not a steering issue that occurred on Senna’s Williams in 1994?

        1. It was

          1. I thought the car bottomed-out on cold tires after the restart? Never heard a mechanical failure determined to be the cause.

            1. Depends who you believe with the senna stuff. There was some weird things that Williams did to make people not 100% believe the bottoming out explanation. They withheld some information and it took them awhile to give the FIA some of the things they had asked for and just seemed strange. The steering was broken on the car but did that happen from the crash or what caused it? We wont know. Also it looked like the steering had been altered in some way that could have weakened it. (Im no expert just know what i have seen in some documentary’s about it)

            2. It was a botched repair to the steering column. As Rick stated, it’s all about personal opinion.

    8. I think it’s safe to assume that someone who has a blackout due to a head injury may not necessarily remember having a blackout. Disorientated people rarely remember the details of disorientation, hence the name of the condition…

      Having said that, Ron wasn’t concussed and he still couldn’t get his story straight.

      I doubt we’ll ever really know what happened in this crash, which is odd in a sport which lives on data analysis.

      1. there was no black-out, he was conscious at the time of accident, just concussed a bit.

        1. A concussion is someone blacking out. Its part of the definition of what a concussion is.

          1. Are you completely mad? I have been concussed from rugby 2 times! both times I was fully conscious!
            To see the actual definition click here:

            I have never seen such a ridiculous statement! There was no black-out if in the report if you read it he broke and down-shifted to third before impact… Sounds unconscious to me don’t you think?

          2. No, it’s not part of the definition of a concussion. A concussion is a type of brain injury. Blacking out implies a quite serious concussion.

          3. @ StuBeck
            Wrong….I had a concussion and never blacked out. They tell you to not sleep for awhile after being concussed. You can slip into a coma.

      2. …and even if Ron could get his story straight, it wouldn’t make sense to anyone but him!

    9. I don’t think I have read anything definitive regarding the fate of the Honda PU that K- Mag was using on Sunday in Melbourne. @keithcollantine or anybody can you enlighten me?

      1. @arki19 McLaren haven’t changed it yet:

        Obviously per the rules Magnussen used an engine from Alonso’s allocation in Australia.

    10. Thank God this steering failure didn’t result in another momentous catastrophe that caused the premature end of an F1 great.

      1. There is no evidence another one did. There were fatigue cracks on the steering column of the FW14, but there’s no proof it broke before the accident took place.

        From what Michael said, the most probable theory right now is the bottoming-out theory – Keith also used that one in his GP flashback a year ago.

        1. Funny you should mention that apropos of this. Now that you do, thinking about it, the stalling theory doesn’t work.

          Keith, like most people, gets things wrong.

        2. I always sustained the theory that Senna went and offed himself.

          1. …due to his car bottoming out. the car couldnt have got lose by driver error if you watch the video, all the other drivers in worse cars even made the turn with the same amount of steering needed.

            1. Not true, his teammate was lifting there, senna was holding it flat despite nearly losing it the lap before.

          2. Things break! nothing lasts forever, and every person who races accepts the risk they take in doing so otherwise they would not race. Hardly the teams fault!

            1. Hahaha, no, what I meant to say is that Senna went and offed himself on purpose, in my opinion. If that was the case then it was nobody’s fault of course, certainly not the team’s.

          3. why would “off” himself? would make no sense?

            1. Probably because the season started out badly and he wanted to go out in style.

        3. Mr win or lose
          26th March 2015, 18:09

          I guess you haven’t read Martin Zustak’s Tamburello.

          1. Interesting e-book (available for free), which goes over the available data in forensic detail. Senna’s crash most closely resembles some sort of steering failure. I wonder why no one has asked what exactly were the “unique” changes applied here for Fernando’s driving style? Perhaps related to his physique? Senna’s car also had modifications to the steering column..

    11. “I remember the accident and I remember everything that following day,” he said in a press conference in Malaysia.

      I can’t find the quote right now, but somewere was said he was unconscious in the helicopter/hospidal, so well chosen words here from Alonso. But what happened? It’s still a mystery.

      1. he explains in press conf “There is a time that I don’t remember in the hospital from two o’clock to six o’clock or something like that but everything again was normal due to the medication they give you to go into the helicopter and there is some tests in the hospital”, medication causes sedation (so was unconscious) for heli travel and other tests, which is a standard protocol.

        1. @f1007 This clearly isn’t the full story though. You don’t give medication to sedate someone who has had a minor accident but suffered no injury. F1 drivers crash all the time – Maldonado wasn’t sedated and put in a helicopter and kept in hospital for several nights after his accident on lap 1 of the race (indeed if they did that all the time he would practically live in a hospital). Nor did Magnussen in his practice crash.

          Every time either the team or Alonso claims it was just “normal” they are omitting some element of the truth. In a normal run-of-the-mill testing crash Alonso would have climbed out or been helped out and taken back to the pits or the circuit medical centre for a quick check over.

          I wonder if this is already showing up a crack in Alonso’s relationship with the team, or if having seen their performance in the race he’s looking to lever himself a possible early exit again.

          1. @jerseyf1 yes they do, thats pretty standard FIA protocol to sedate someone if they are being airlifted after a crash, they are taken to medical center first and if full medical attention is needed they are taken to hospital , it doesn’t matter which driver crashes most and not all crashes result in concussion. Mandatory medical center visit is needed if G-sensor alarm goes-off, in this case it did , its up to doctors at medical center to send him to a hospital if necessary, and i would think concussion is pretty good reason to do that.

            I am not saying the statements released by the team after the incident are right or wrong, all i am saying is the there is no “mystery” in the explanation as to why he was unconscious like original post.

            1. @f1007 My point wasn’t that you don’t sedate before airlifting, but that you neither sedate nor airlift if the driver hasn’t suffered an injury which indicates an urgent airlift.

            2. my point @jerseyf1 is doctors deemed it necessary to do those based on severity.

    12. Glad he´s back. Just hope the Mclaren performs better this weekend.

    13. He’s no Shakespeare, but what he says sounds credible to me. So there’s that.

      On the other hand, his remarks about the steering rack sound interesting. How much of an impact will it have on his ability to get a feeling for the car? Will he have to start from scratch, or are the differences small enough for him to adapt quickly and build on whatever experience he has with the car?

      Anyways, glad to have him back. The grid will feel somewhat less empty with him.

    14. I read somewhere that the insurance companies would pay 1.8 million for Alonso’s absence in Melbourne, unless the crash was caused by a problem with the car. This press conference from Fernando would not be very helpful in that respect.

      1. that is all petty money for mclaren

        1. Going to court for intented insurance fraud would be a lot more expensive.

          1. *attempted

            Is my English bad enough yet to justify an excuse without it being perceived as fishing for compliments? Part of me hopes so.

    15. Ok, he went off track due to a steering failure, still it doesn’t explains why he was away a full month…
      the car was almost intact. there was no impact in the wall, just a brush.

      1. There was a close to 45° impact, it seems to be the worst angle to have one – Dale Earnhardt Sr. died at Daytona from a similar one in 2001 when he crashed during a NASCAR race. There were higher speed crashes in history than that one, yet he died and the others lived.

        So it’s rather the unfortunate angle, less so the speed, that was the main factor.

      2. There were two impacts with the wall one 30G and one 15G, widely reported.

        He was unable to drive for three or four weeks due to having suffered concussion. No mystery.

        1. Well, a mystery based on what McLaren has said. The story has changed considerably severla times, and I’m unsure why they couldn’t just say “We don’t know what caused the accident” at the start of the investigation. This whole incident has made me very suspicious of what McLaren says.

          1. alonso confirmed today it was doctors advice. so no mystery – he suffered concussion, and it is becoming standard pracice to give concussion victims more time to recover, and bloody well right too.

          2. A valuable lesson I learned about McLaren under Ron Dennis’s lead during Häkkinen’s greatest years can be summed up as:
            They lie.
            Ron’s kinda compulsive about it, as exemplified by his statements immediately after the incident, a couple of weeks after that, and what’s left of it after Alonso had a say. Ron almost literally said that he intended to tell the truth, but somehow felt incapable of doing so.
            That’s not a problem in itself, as F1, like high-level management, tends to attract “extreme” characters, that would be perceived as dysfunctional in a normal working environment. I don’t doubt that he can be very efficient as a CEO. But, on the other hand, one should always bear in mind that what he says and what really IS doesn’t have to be the same thing.

      3. One theory I heard a few days ago was that the accident took place at just the wrong speed: it wasn’t fast enough for the proper deforming structures to… deform, but then again it wasn’t slow enough for basically “nothing” to happen.

        1. F1 are crystal fragile.
          the front shot of the car shows it is intact. just the front wing came off, that’s it, and it probably even happened before the car brushed the wall.
          at 45° the front right wheel would have snapped… even at 50KM/h they dislocate (see hamilton hitting raikkonen in the pits in canada)
          30G is big, but consider that Kubica took 75G in canada, Raikkonen 47G last year at Silverstone.
          In Dale Earnhart car was much more impacted, and he died after the seatbelt snapped if I remember well…
          the explanations in alonso’s case don’t stand a second.

          1. Yes, they do. 30 G is a tremendous force, and if you’re unlucky, you don’t walk away with a concussion. You’re indulging in some sort of reverse cherry-picking. Of course, there’ve been mightier impacts, and wheels have detached in smaller accidents. But are there any conclusions to be drawn for one peculiar accident?
            No, there aren’t.
            Alonso’s encounter with the wall happened at an unfortunate and rare angle, which caused relatively little shear stress on the front wheel, which is why it remained more or less where it belongs, but instead transferred the impact energy straight into the Cockpit, unhindered by crash structures.

            I honestly can’t understand how this kind of explanation can be considered less believable than other scenarios that presuppose a lot of other unlikely factors.

            1. so it would then first time in the history of the automotive industry (and probably of physics) that the impact in the wall is transfered all the way from the chassis through to the brain without damaging anything else…unless the mclaren is made of concrete and alonso some kind of jelly, it sounds crazy.
              looking at the pictures of the car and the wall, the car brushed the wall on a good 100m before coming to a halt. front wing and rear suspension snapped off.
              the official explanation is actually more unbelievable than a simple “alonso had a physical issue (faint or whatever) and had to stop in emergency. he then had to undergo full medical check and rest”. problem then is the image to sponsors and the investors…

        2. You don’t have to go back that far look at the Aussie GP 2015, Maldonado hit the barrier, front and back wheel broke off.

    16. So they give him medication to knock him out in preperation for an MRI, when he was ‘perfectly concious’ after the crash?

      I don’t remember drivers being drugged up and KO’d by the doctros after every crash they have.

      Alonso must have had some problem as the medics have got to the car to give them reason to believe he needed medication and an MRI.

    17. On the long run, this is still not good news for Alonso.

      He said McLaren changed his steering setup to accomodate his driving style – that would be the one with the unusually big steering lock we used to see him having in his Ferraris in my book. Now that he can’t use that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become somewhat slower, possibly slower than Button.

      (On a sidenote, I’m almost sure he’ll be slower than Button here – less mileage, distractions, and although a very very avid fitness guy, I just can’t imagine him being a more avid one than Jenson. This factor will be mostly eliminated at other venues though, apart from Singapore perhaps.)

    18. The only thing I have an issue with is that he was reported to be doing 130mph in his McLaren. After Melbourne I find this extremely unlikely.

    19. As always, it’s much simpler than all of those crazy theories that were doing rounds.

      1. They dont know what happened and you call that simple?

    20. Surprised someone who suffered from concussion remembers such exact details of the accident.

    21. I remember DC retiring from a race because his foot was fouling the steering, at Red Bull istr. That might not leave much in the way of data, and Alonso might not remember it clearly. He’s shorter than JB and KMag too of course, so his sitting position will be different.

      Just speculating aimlessly. Anyway hopefully that won’t recur.

    22. With friends like these ….

    23. Ah well it should make for a more interesting GP this weekend, plus I think I’ll watch the BBC coverage this weekend, see what DC and Eddie make of things.

    24. Subramanian Swamy
      26th March 2015, 15:41

      He was electrocuted. The Williams Renault FW16 had similar steering column issues in testing. Ayrton Senna found that car extremely hard to drive. I think McLaren must be subjected to extreme scrutineering. Not sure if the mp4-30 is a race worthy car. Yes it might have passed the FIA mandated crash & load tests, but I think there is something funny going on with its electrical systems.

    25. Well Mr bad excuses returns again this weekend. Nobody believes his “steering excuse”. Looks may be more stupid excuse than wind one. Is a clear excuse easy to discredit.
      1) If he never lost conciousness pre or post accident. Why assistant comiseers decide to transport him to a hospital? Why not to a clinica mobile in the circuit, but to a hospital. And not only using a normal ambulance, using a helicopter! If accident isnt hard, like his case, he wouldnt even be transported to clinica mobile, he will return to his box in a scooter, like always. So first hole in his excuse, he never lost conciousness but drunk comiseers decide to transport to a hospital, because his condition is so critical he cannot even be checked in a clinica mobile, like they do in 95% of accidents. And they dont use am ambulance like in 95% of the cases, they need a helicopter.
      Also this very strange helicopter transportation is very confirmed by the fact lot of witness in the accident, sawn he didnt move in lot of minutes, and thats why electroshock theory was appointed, because a light accident dont leave u without conciousness several minutes. And also comiseers dont transport u in a helicopter if they dont see its a very serious case, life threating injury. So fail number 1,2,3 in the excuse.
      More holes in the history: he never lost conciousness but he didnt remember how was his accident until at least 2 weeks. Or 1 month if we attend to the time he open his mouth, and all this time investigating electroshocks, ers failures, wing failures, wind, tyres…
      His managers confirmed he lost counciousness, McLaren confirmed too, his managers and McLaren confirmed he didnt remember his accident.
      Is so strange to lose memory when u never been without counciousness. So how can u lose memory without being KO. Its not compatible to lose memory without losing conciousness, except if u get seriously drunk that u are in a state not very councious, so in fact u are conciousness. So its impossible with human beings to lose memory if u are conciouss, except if u have a brain tumor.
      So … his history has lot of holes …
      But they are more, if u forget all the other holes in the history, which are important ones, and imcompatible with human beings. May be his is an alien, who knows. If we focus in the steering wheel itself:
      First a similar failure to what he is telling, probably has never happened in the history of modern f1. From 1990 in advance, never happened a full steering lock, impossible to move. So he is talking about something that never happened. UH OH problems …
      Also its imcompatible with the telemetry, which says he moved steering wheel to avoid the accident, if its fully locked, its impossible to move and u go straight to the walls, and no telemetry data will ever been shown, and they will never know u moved steering to avoid accident, because it was locked and u couldnt move it!!
      But we have more, if u know your steering is locked, and u cannot turn the car around, u will have gone to the sand, not to the opposite side of the track… Uh oh. And more importanly if u cannot turn around, because the steering column is broken like Senna accident, u will break as HARD AS POSSIBLE. U will never wait until last moment to brake.
      All human beings, except the crazy ones, when feel the fear that u will hit the wall, u will brake as fast as u can, without excuse, only suicides will wait to brake. So in the race circuit the braking marks will be clear and telemetry will show something was wrong because the driver braked as hard as possible to hit the wall at the fewest speed he can.
      So Alonso is a liar, one time more. like always.

      1. You are missing how Alonso lies too when he denies that he assassinated Kennedy back in 1963.

        1. That’s too funny; I coincidentally was just typing in about how Fernando was the second gunman on the grassy knoll. On the upside, it’s nice to know that Nelsonho Piquet has an account here at F1F.

          1. Nelsinho Piquet accident was more hard.

    26. I was hit over the head with a hammer several years back, suffered a fractured skull and doctors didn’t sedate me. Strange times.. I find it odd why they felt the need to sedate Alonso, after all, the impact wasn’t that big.

    27. “Weeping child” Alonso began with his disloyalty.
      It will continue on the team in July?

    28. I don’t believe a single word coming from McLaren.
      They also lied during 2007 spy gate.

      “On 16 July 2007, McLaren announced that its own internal investigation had revealed that “no Ferrari materials or data are or have ever been in the possession of any McLaren employee other than the individual Mike Coughlan.”
      “On 13 December2007, McLaren the team accepted that a number of McLaren employees had access to Ferrari technical information, and apologized that it took the intervention of the FIA for this to come to light.”

    29. I don’t get this? The car was hardly damaged. If the steering had problems they could still check it. Is not like it broke and they couldn’t check it?
      So ether Mclaren lied about the car or Fernando lost it and tries to blame the car. That does not a very good relationship make when the one tried to blame the other for the incident.
      They really are working with each other out of necessity aren’t they?

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